Area deals with frozen water lines

EAST LIVERPOOL – With temperatures dipping well below freezing Monday and Tuesday, residents and utility providers were dealing with frozen water lines across the Tri-State area well into Wednesday.

North Elementary in East Liverpool canceled classes Tuesday and sustained significant damage when the extreme cold caused an elbow joint in the sprinkler system to rupture spraying water throughout the school’s computer lab and library. East Liverpool City Schools Superintendent James Herring said Wednesday that school will be open Thursday thanks in large part to the “spectacular” efforts of the school’s custodial and maintenances staff who cleaned up the soaked library and computer lab.

“I couldn’t ask for much better work from my people,” said Herring. “They pitched in all together and really work hard to get things straightened.”

He noted the crews received some help from Brad’s Carpet Cleaning which brought in industrial sized vacuums to suck water out of the carpeting. The clean up involved removing virtually everything from both rooms in order to mop up the water says Herring. Surprisingly, few books in the library and only about six computers in the computer lab were destroyed according to Herring. Outlets and other electronic connections in the floor of the computer lab are still one of Herring’s main concern because they were totally submerged in the leaking water. An insurance adjuster will assess the damage on Thursday says Herring.

North Elementary was not the only place dealing with frozen water lines. In neighborhoods like Wellsville, Calcutta and Salineville, people were waking up to frozen water lines Tuesday and calling Buckeye Water District (BWD) for help. Office Manager Greg Stanley fielded many of those calls himself .

“We’ve had more than a couple cases,” said Stanley

Stanley estimated between 15-20 calls to BWD’s office from customers who complained of frozen water lines during the cold spell. Stanley said the water district had luckily not received any reports of ruptured water lines. He noted service lines which connect customers to the district’s water main were the most reported frozen and most of the frozen portions of those lines were inside customers’ homes. As to whether the age or size of the lines was factors in why some lines froze, Stanley said that when temperatures drop as low as they did at the beginning of the week, those factors are largely irrelevant.

“Cold shows no prejudice,” said Stanley

For home owners with frozen pipes, Stanley recommends using a hair dryer or space heater to thaw them slowly. He urges homeowners to be cautious if they do use these means to thaw frozen pipes and advises against using open flame sources like welding torches to do the thawing. He noted that BWD is not responsible for frozen pipes inside a customer’s home and will not send employees inside unless there is a leak.

Stanley says homeowners can take simple steps to keep their pipes from freezing such as leaving cabinets under sinks open so warm air can circulate around pipes.

On Wednesday afternoon, East Liverpool Utility Director Bob Disch said the city was dealing with its fair share of frozen water lines. Though he could not give an exact number, Disch said there has been a ‘rash’ of residents reporting frozen water lines since the cold spell began. The city utilities department has also dealt with a handful of water line breaks in the street including a rupture in Long Alley that crews worked to repair Wednesday afternoon. He says the city does its best to bury water lines deep enough so that they are not affected by the cold.

“We had a bad winter a few years ago and anybody whose line froze at that time we concentrated our efforts and made sure if they (lines) weren’t deep enough, we made them deep enough,” said Disch

Disch says it can be hard for residents and even city employees to pin point where a water line is frozen but drafty basements and other places where cold air can get to pipes are often responsible. He notes that when lines are frozen indoors, they can be more easily accessed to be thawed but when lines are frozen somewhere underneath a resident’s yard there is little that can be done.